I don't think you want me pursuing a personal style
. I just want to take good pictures that share what I experienced.
I think what you're two statements here are contradictions of each other, at least from my point of view. It depends on what you want to define as "good pictures", and I personally think that a good picture will in some way be representative of the photographer's personal style. It is understandable to be scared to embrace your personal style, but if your goal is to consistently take better pictures, then developing a personal style is one of the key steps in doing so. Your personal style is already there in some form or another, but if you shy away from it, you may be stunting an important faucet of your growth as a photographer. Personal style is not easy to pin down, like f-stop and shutter speed, or the rule of thirds, or anything else in the technical side of photography. Personal style is enigmatic
. It is tied much more closely to the artistic side of photography. The essence is in asking yourself these questions: Do you intend your photos to be representative of how YOU felt when you captured your subject? Are you hoping to elicit an emotional response from your audience? If the answer is yes, then you are in some way trying to create art with your photos. So does it make sense to shun your personal style, all while creating photos that you intend to be representative your vision?
In response to your statements about SLRs, I do agree that they do open the door to many more opportunities. I just think that many people spend the money on their dSLRs, yet they don't intend put in the time and effort to learn how to take advantage of those opportunities, and just simply think that a $750 dSLR kit from Best Buy automatically equals better photos than a point-and-shoot they could grab off Craig's List for $75. I would also agree that there are many people that still shoot with point-and-shoot cameras, that have the motivation to work to take their photography to the next level, and would benefit greatly from investing in a dSLR. But only because they are motivated to invest time and patience in learning how to take advantage of shooting with a dSLR. The advantages are however worthless is no time is spent learning and developing technical and artistic skills and techniques. I'm not saying that there are no benefits to shooting with a dSLR, I but I am saying investing in a dSLR does not make sense for a lot of people because they simply want to walk around taking pictures on auto during their dayhike between the times of 9am and 3pm, and aren't very concerned about rules of composition, lighting situations, or isolating their subject (the very basics of good photography). And to be honest, MOST people fall into this category, and this is fine, I am in no way judging them, but at the same time I would think it silly for them to buy a dSLR.
Let me make it clear that I think everyone that has participated in this thread is probably serious enough about their photography that they don't fall into the category of someone that it makes no sense for them to buy a dSLR. But I enthusiastically believe that anyone that is looking to improve their photography should not be led to believe that buying a dSLR (or any new piece of gear) will be THE SOLUTION. Working on technique, use of light and color, composition, developing personal style, digital developing, and the long list of many other things (much of which Ambika mentioned in her great list) are what WILL improve any photographer, regardless of what kind of camera they shoot. dSLRs, lenses, filters and all that other stuff are just tools. Give Jack Dykinga from Arizona Highways a point-and-shoot and you'll be amazed what he could do with it. What he does with a dSLR or a 4x5 large format camera will obviously been better, but skill, technique, vision, style, artistry and creativity are what make it awesome. A camera is just a camera.